There is something very significant about Rome in the heart of God. While the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Jerusalem, Jesus spoke these words to Paul: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem so you must also testify in Rome.” (Act 23:11). God knew that Rome needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul did testify, just as Jesus said he would. He was in prison in Rome when he wrote the book of 2 Timothy. Paul states, “At my first defense, no one came to my support… But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tim. 4:16-17). Through Paul’s testimony, God’s purposes were established for all people to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Much of modern day Christianity is indebted to Paul’s determination to go to Rome and tell of Jesus Christ.
Through the years Rome became the heart of the Catholic Church, and while that is still true today Evangelical Christianity is growing in Italy but has a long way to go. There are an estimated 60 million people in Italy. About 50 million are Christians with just over 600,000 listed as Evangelicals (1.1% of the population).
Here are several prayer points listed by Operation World for Italy:
a) More than 70% of Italy’s 8,101 comuni (communities ranging from small village to large city) are without an established Bible-believing congregation.
b) Many areas of Italy lack a strong indigenous evangelical presence (specifically: Abruzzo, Friuli, Liguria, Marche, Molise, Trentino, Umbria, Valle d’Aosta and Veneto). Immigration and some very modest church growth are slowly improving the situation.
c) Sardinia, a Mediterranean island with limited autonomy, has 1.67 million people and its own language and culture. Sardinia has only about 30 evangelical churches and a few Christian workers. There has been radio outreach for some years. Suspicion of outsiders, fear, vendettas, the occult and the activities of JWs all make any evangelistic outreach difficult.
d) The 1,850,000 students in 94 universities remain a needy and crucial mission field. GBU(IFES) has nearly 30 groups with around 300 students and aims to eventually have 50. Agape(CCCI), Great Commission in northern Italy and a growing number of local congregations focus on students as well. In Milan alone, there are more than 175,000 students with little outreach being done – CW is one of a handful working in this context. Also, there are increasing opportunities to reach international students in Italy.
e) The estimated 500,000 drug addicts have high rates of HIV infection and crime. Cocaine and sniffing solvents are the fastest-growing problems, affecting young people in particular. Evangelicals are only beginning to meet the challenge (Betel in 5 centres; Teen Challenge 2; AoG 2).
a) Ancient minority groups are clustered in different parts of Italy, but most have even less gospel light than the main Italian majority. These include Albanians, several minorities in the northeast, and Greeks and Croatians in the south. Most have largely integrated with Italian life and culture.
b) Muslims. Their numbers have grown rapidly through legal and illegal immigration to nearly 1.5 million, 70% of whom are North African. Most of the Muslim population are concentrated in cities of the north. META is involved in reaching them and mobilizing the churches to do the same.
c) Romani (Gypsies). Many have recently flooded into Italy, becoming the latest immigration challenge for Italian authorities. While their treatment by authorities is sometimes poor and harsh, as are their living conditions, a high proportion are involved in illegal activities. Pray for outreach to this group, since they have shown great responsiveness to the gospel in other Western European nations.
d) Illegal immigration is a major challenge on many fronts. Italy functions as a gateway into the EU, and many people brave the dangerous sea crossing in overcrowded boats to get there, some dying along the way. This desperation fuels and funds organized crime in Italy and abroad and drains the resources of the government. Increased xenophobia in some parts is another side effect. Pray for illegal immigrants who find themselves in Italy; may they discover spiritual freedom and richness in Jesus Christ.